Vibrotactile interfaces are an inexpensive and non-invasive way to provide performance feedback to body-machine interface users. Interfaces for the upper extremity have utilized a multi-channel approach using an array of vibration motors placed on the upper extremity. However, for successful perception of multi-channel vibrotactile feedback on the arm, we need to account for vibration propagation across the skin. If two stimuli are delivered within a small distance, mechanical propagation of vibration can lead to inaccurate perception of the distinct vibrotactile stimuli. This study sought to characterize vibration propagation across the hairy skin of the forearm. We characterized vibration propagation by measuring accelerations at various distances from a source vibration of variable intensities (100–240 Hz). Our results showed that acceleration from the source vibration was present at a distance of 4 cm at intensities >150 Hz. At distances greater than 8 cm from the source, accelerations were reduced to values substantially below vibrotactile discrimination thresholds for all vibration intensities. We conclude that in future applications of vibrotactile interfaces, stimulation sites should be separated by a distance of at least 8 cm to avoid potential interference in vibration perception caused by propagating vibrations.
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